In the UK, people think black cats are lucky, particularly if they cross your path. The opposite is true in the USA and several European countries, where a black cat is seen as a bad omen. In the USA a white cat is very good luck, while in the UK it is a sign of bad luck.
A horseshoe is a piece of metal fixed to a horse’s foot. Some people think that if you find a horseshoe and the open space is facing you it will bring you luck. Traditionally, people also hang horseshoes above the doorway of their home to bring good luck. In many European countries, the horseshoe is hung downwards – that’s believed to let the luck flow out into the house. In Britain and Ireland, the shoe must be hung with the opening at the top to keep the good fortune.
Four-leaf clovers are very rare. Anyone who finds one is said to be able to recognize evil influences and avoid them.
A ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle. Some people believe it is disrespectful, and unlucky, to walk underneath one because triangles symbolize the Holy Trinity. The bad luck is supposed to be warded off by crossing the fingers or making a wish while under the ladder.
Magpies are generally thought to be unlucky. This belief is said to come from the Bible, as the magpie was the only bird that refused to enter Noah’s Ark. In China, however, the magpie is a good omen, and should never be killed.
Breaking a mirror is said to bring seven years’ bad luck. This idea may come from the old belief that your reflection is an image of your soul, so anything that changes the reflection may bring evil. The length of the period of bad luck may come from the Roman belief that life renews itself every seven years.
Salt was once valuable and spilling it was thought to cause bad luck, unless the person who spills it throws a pinch over their left shoulder. In his painting of the Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci shows Jesus’s betrayer Judas knocking over the salt cellar.